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BANKING

Street fighters battle with isolationism

At a time when M&A volumes are rising, a toughening up of the CFIUS could deter foreign companies looking to buy in the US. And that would take a serious chunk out of Wall Street’s fees. Kathryn Tully reports.

Dick Fuld, Lehman Brothers
John Mack, Morgan Stanley
Ken Thompson, Wachovia
Hank Paulson, ex-Goldman Sachs
Stan O'Neal, Merrill Lynch
Concerned bankers: (from top) Dick Fuld, John Mack, Ken Thompson, Hank Paulson and Stan O’Neal

AFTER THE UPROAR in March over the approval given to Dubai company DP World to manage terminal operations at six US ports, many hoped the perceived threat to national security when foreign companies attempted to make acquisitions in the US might fall off the agenda. DP World had capitulated to the pressure and agreed to divest those assets, so wasn’t that the end of the story? Not so – as soon as US senator Richard Shelby proposed a bill in March that would toughen the way the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) reviewed foreign investments on national security grounds, US financial markets lobby groups such as the Securities Industry Association and the Bond Market Association were out in force to get the proposed legislation watered down before it was voted on by the Senate banking committee.

“Not only would these proposals seriously jeopardize the vibrancy, depth and liquidity of the capital markets, it could be a green light for trade partners to put up their own protective barriers,” says a spokesman for the Securities Industry Association.